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Murder Most Owl in Central Park

Poisoned. Rats!

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An owl was found dead in Central Park last month, and an autopsy by the state Wildlife Pathology Unit shows it was poisoned. The Parks Department poisons rats to control their population in city parks, and activists charge that it ends up killing other wildlife, too. “The birds that fall out of the sky, they are the canaries in a coal mine,” says Ward Stone, the unit’s head, who worries about toxins in the park. Poison that remains in a dead rat’s liver can end up killing predators, like owls and hawks, that eat the smaller animals. “An owl might eat a mouse one day, and it gets a little anticoagulant”—a kind of poison used to kill rats—“then it eats another, and it builds up in the owl’s body,” says Stone. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe says he’s unaware of a large problem. “It may be happening, but no one has brought it to our attention,” Benepe says. “We’re open to any reasonable suggestion on how to control rats in parks.”

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